Saint Leo University hosted the 2016 NCAA Divison 2 Cross Country National Championships on Saturday, Nov. 19. Hosting runners from more than 64 teams of men and women around the country, there was 248 runners for the men’s 10K race and 244 for the women’s 6K event.
“I imagine this is what a stampede sounds like,” one student said, after the start of the men’s race.
Sophmore Vincent Kiprop out of Missouri Southern won the individual title for the men’s event with a blistering 29:07.4 finish. Adams State took the team title for the men, finishing with 54 team points, the lower than second place Grand Valley State by 25 points.
"I'm extremely proud of the young men who ran today. They've had some hard battles and worked all year with the goal of bringing a national title back to Alamosa." Head Coach Damon Martin said to asugrizzlies.com, "Last year we fell short and they really wanted to rectify the ship. Today you could see the determination in their faces. With a kilometer to go we were a little behind but moving forward they won every little battle. They all passed two or three people and it made all the difference in the word."
The Women’s 6K was won by senior Kendra Foley out of Grand Valley State with a time of 20:01.8, which helped Grand Valley with the team title for the women. This was Foley’s second individual national championship in three years. Grand Valley also won big, finishing with 116 points, besting second place Adams State by 23 points.
The wins by Adams State and Grand Valley State come as no surprise. These are both powerhouse teams in division 2 cross country, with Adam’s State claiming their twelfth men’s national championship and Grand Valley State earning their fifth women’s national title.
Both races had a swift pace to them, with many runners noting how tough it was to keep pace with the leaders. Five men finished the 10K race in under 30 minutes, something that surprised many officials. Meanwhile, many of the women in the race noted how fast the leaders ran, saying that they were just too fast.
The local teams were represented well. After losing four runners to graduation, the University of Tampa only had one runner qualify for nationals, with senior Claudia Cancello finishing 76th.
Host team Saint Leo University had full squads for both the men and women, finishing 27th and 25th, respectively. Individually, the Lions had senior Rafal Matuszczak in the men’s race and junior Colett Rampf in the women’s race earning All-American honors for the team.
Matuszczak is the first All-American in the men’s team history, something that did not go unnoticed by Head Coach Kent Reiber.
"This was a great day for our veterans and a learning experience for our rookies," Reiber said to saintleolions.com. "Rafal ran the best race he has ever run wearing the Green and Gold. To earn All-America status in his final year, and to be the first in our program's history, is truly remarkable."
Rampf, who finished 14th, earned more honors this year, being named the South Regional women’s runner of the year after winning both the Sunshine State Conference Championship and the South Regional Championship. With six runners that finished ahead of her graduating, Rampf has a good chance of improving her impressive finish next year.
"Colett continues to make her name known at the national level. From my recollection, this is the best finish by any women's runner out of the South Region, and to be able to accomplish that feat on our home course is tremendous. To do what she has done for two years in a row… all I can say is that I'm extremely proud of her, and we're looking forward to a great spring building off this success," Coach Reiber told saintleolions.com.